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  • Writer's pictureMinister Jamie Seales

Life Transforming Experiences

Excerpts from Minister Jamie's sermon on February 11, 2024:

Today is Super Bowl Sunday. Folks are saying that this event could be the most watched TV show of all time. If you are going to look for an edge in a game, especially a big game such as the Super Bowl, the first place you look is experience, especially the experience of the QBS. Experience. Experience matters.

A relatively well-known preacher was sharing a sermon. I heard him say that experience should NOT be trusted. Experience is deceptive. I found this, and continue to find this, very puzzling. His point, however, was to to say that the Bible and REASON will make the truth plain and evident, while experience is subjective and can lead astray. I think this particular pastor was engaged in what theologians and Bible Scholars call category confusion. That faith becomes like working a math problem, or if you prefer, a sudoku puzzle... the kind where you just plug in the right number and any person is going to get the same exact answer.

Faith is not like this. Faith is rooted in experience. Faith is sort of like love. One doesn’t love a pet, a child, because they have rationally deduced love. What inspires, creates curiosity, and appeals is much more like love. How do we know what the Bible says? One either has to read it or hear it (those are both experiences, or based in experience). Paul says faith comes by hearing (experience). If you tell your faith story, that is rooted in your experiences. Zero experience, zero room for faith. This does NOT mean that reason and rationality have zero place.

For the past 40 days, we have mainly been reading the gospel of Mark. The disciples heard Jesus call them (they experienced this call). Second, they have seen Jesus’ power over illness and lessor spirits. Seeing is also experience. Today, 3 disciples Peter, James, and John have a life-transforming experience. Like the Super Bowl is the pinnacle if the NFL, a mountain top is literally a pinnacle place for a symbolic, life-transforming experience. Atop this mountain, they experience Jesus radically transformed. Mark wants the reader to be sure that this is not a natural experience. Mark points out, “no person could bleach a garment so dazzling.” This shook them (like many life transforming experiences do). They were “terrified”.

The Greek word for transfiguration is where we get our word for metamorphosis. There is almost no way to get around talking about caterpillars and butterflies, because metamorphosis is how this transition from caterpillar to butterfly occurs. The very picture of transfiguration is imprinted into nature. A caterpillar sliding down a branch of a tree, become a flying insect. We don’t need to glorify the process. It is HARD. It is messy. If we are going to reach the butterfly level of transformation, then will have to deal with deep pain in general and the pain that comes with life-transforming change.

Once a month I do a devotion at an assisted living facility in Wilson County. I have encountered a 101 year old lady at this facility. To put that into perspective, this lady was 22 when world war 11 ended. I have heard her tell so many stories about her library of experience. One day I went to see her and she started to cry. She said "thank you for everything you have ever done for me". I was astonished. I hadn’t helped her solve a problem, or given her a material gift of any kind. I gave her my presence. That presence was a profound gift for her, but I felt like she was giving me a gift by telling me stories and giving her time. People need to know, to experience, that we care enough to show up. No judgment, just loving presence. Those life transforming moments that will carry us through the really difficult and painful process of metamorphosis.

A second example… Montana, a 10 year old boy was sick. His sickness qualified him for Make a Wish Foundation. Montana was a huge football fan and his name might give away his favorite college football. Montana was a even bigger Notre Dame fighting Irish fan. One day, there is a knock at the door. It’s Notre Dame's head football coach (at the time) and their starting QB. After talking with Montana and spending some time with him, the coach asked if there was anything else he could do for the boy. Montana said “Yes, I want to call the first play.” Coach asked if he wanted to to run or pass. Montana said “Pass, pass to the right.”... Washington gets the ball first and has to punt. Notre dame get the ball at the 1 yard line. Sure enough, Brady Quinn threw to the right and the play gained 12 yards. Giving the gift of presence was transforming for both the coach and player, but also for Montana and his mother. That is transfiguration. Seeing something radically new because of an experience. Seeing Jesus in a new way, a way so different that we are transformed in the process as well.

I don’t believe that Jesus needed to be changed. I think Jesus realized the disciples needed to see him differently, so that in time they could get through the really difficult days that would follow. Their experience of Jesus changed them. This change was not immediate for the disciples. It was a process. They couldn’t fully understand the meaning of transfiguration, or what they had experienced, until after Jesus was resurrected.

So, today is Super Bowl Sunday. Two teams square off to see who will emerge as champion. I guarantee you they have had metamorphic moments leading up to this game. Together as a body, and as individuals, we undergo them also. Jesus knows they are painful, but the realization we get from a Super Bowl-like moment will carry us until our very lives come to an end. Today on this Super Sunday, may you hold close that which give you a sense of purpose and direction, to that which has transformed your life. May we continue to be transfigured by God’s amazing grace.

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